Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Forest Resource Management

Committee Chair

Shawn Grushecky

Committee Co-Chair

Ben Spong

Committee Member

Michael Strager

Committee Member

Nicolas Zegre


Little research has been done on the characteristics of surface disturbance between conventional (C) and unconventional (UC) wells in West Virginia. To understand the impacts of petroleum development in West Virginia, a total of 296 conventional wells and 206 unconventional wells were digitized for the purposes of this study. Using a combination of spatial and resource-related data, the total land area impacted, forest fragmentation characteristics, and forest resource impacts were investigated between conventional and unconventional wells. A metric was developed to understand natural gas production per land area disturbed for both conventional and unconventional wells. The absolute magnitude of the footprint associated with the disturbed area of WV forestland in conjunction with four years (2009 to 2012) of gas-production activity was rather modest. An estimated 2,358 hectares were disturbed, of which 1,341 hectares were forested. About 73.3% of the estimated forest area removed was the result of unconventional production and 26.7% was the result of conventional production. The results indicate that the volume of gas production per unit of area disturbed was much greater for unconventional wells than conventional wells. The potential for greater production per unconventional well and the possibility of multiple unconventional wells per pad can be more beneficial to overall surface disturbance, than the conventional development needed to equal the same amount of unconventional production. Thus, public policies and regulations limiting the expansion of unconventional wells may have negative consequences associated with the magnitude of surface disturbance. Interestingly, in contrast to C wells and studies of UC wells in other regions, the findings for WV suggest that UC wells were most frequently on already-perforated forests, not on core forests. Thus, the impact on forest fragmentation in WV may be less than generally anticipated in other regions by some scientists.